HL Deb 18 November 1926 vol 65 cc687-720

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Desborough.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]

LORD ARNOLD moved, before Clause 1, to insert the following new clause:—

Prohibition of use of lead paint in painting interior of buildings.

".—(1) From and after the nineteenth day of November, nineteen hundred and twenty-seven, it shall not be lawful for any person to employ a person in painting with lead paint any part of the interior of a building or for any person employed in painting to use lead paint in painting any part of the interior of a building.

(2) The last preceding subsection shall not apply to—

  1. (a) such buildings used for industrial purposes as may be excluded from the provisions of this section by an Order of the Secretary of State made after consultation with the organisations, if any, representative of the employers and workers in the trade; or
  2. (b) paint with lead paint for artistic purposes or the process of fine lining in such circumstances or in accordance with such conditions as may be prescribed."

The noble Lord said: I have put down this Amendment in the form of a new clause because it raises a fundamental issue in connection with this Bill, which is, to put it shortly, whether the use of lead paint for interior work is to be prohibited or whether it should be only regulated. I hold that there is the strongest case for this new clause. I put some of the considerations before your Lordships on the Second Reading, and I will repeat them, though perhaps in a slightly different form. This clause, in effect, carries out what was agreed to at the Geneva Convention of 1921. As I said upon the Second Beading, we were parties to that Convention, and this Bill, in the form in which the Government have introduced it, breaks the agreement which we made in 1921, and I hold that that is a very grave matter. It really will not do for the Government to take refuge, as they have done in defending what they are doing, in a verbal qualification made by Sir Montague Barlow, who was our Delegate at the Convention at Geneva in 1921.

A great nation cannot go into conference with other nations and give a vote solemnly, and then afterwards, because of some qualification of a very general nature, say that the vote they gave does not hold. No business can be done on those terms, either at Geneva or anywhere else. The simple fact stand out that this Bill is a breach of what was agreed to in 1921, and I think that that is bound to jeopardise our position at Geneva in future conferences with regard to industrial conditions. Consider the effect of what is being done now by the British Government upon other nations who signed the Convention, many of whom have ratified it and are carrying it out. Certainly they thought that Great Britain was going to do the same thing, and they will find that Great Britain, if this Bill is passed as it stands, has gone back on its undertaking. That must destroy confidence in future Conventions of this kind, so that the action of the Government is harmful for the future, quite apart from the effect which this Bill has upon the lead paint issue.

It is admitted by the Government, and by Lord Desborough himself, that the use of lead paint does lead to serious consequences. He described it as a somewhat deleterious occupation. I am afraid that is putting it rather mildly, because, unhappily, the statistics show that every year some hundreds of men suffer from the effects of lead paint poisoning, called plumbism, and that in addition to those who suffer forty to fifty men die every year from the effects of this poisoning. I submit that we are entitled to have a fuller statement than has yet been made on behalf of the Government, either in another place or here, as to the precise reasons which have caused them to go, back upon the Convention of 1921 and to introduce the Bill in this minor form; because the contentions that they have advanced in order to justify what they are doing will not stand investigation. The noble Lord opposite said the Government were not able to pass the larger Bill. For my part I am getting rather tired of these assumptions of impotence on the part of the Government whenever there is something that they do not want to do. That attitude has been adopted more than once during the coal strike. It is ridiculous for the Government to say they cannot pass the Bill, seeing that they have a majority of 200 in another place and of 70 to 1 in this House.

Moreover, the Opposition in another place and here would support them in passing this measure. Then we are told that they have every expectation that the Regulations which will be made under this Bill—Regulations instead of prohibition—will stop, or very materially alleviate, the injury which is being done by lead paint poisoning. But they cannot support that view by experience, and I contend that expectations unsupported by experience are not sufficient. Take the pottery industry. I pointed out on the Second Reading that there has been regulation in regard to these matters in the pottery district for thirteen years but that has not stamped out the evil by any means. In 1923, 1924 and 1925 there were about fifty cases in the year in the pottery industry, and in one of the years there were eleven deaths from this lead poisoning and in another year there were eighteen deaths. Since last week when I spoke on this matter there has been a very relevant reply to a Question given by the Home Secretary. He admitted that this year, in the case of one firm in the potteries, there have been three cases of lead paint poisoning and that one of these cases has proved fatal. He admits himself that it is a bad case, but he says, in effect, that the Regulations in regard to the system of exhaust ventilation have not been carried out, that the exhaust ventilation has not been maintained in an efficient state.

That is just the point which I want to make—that you cannot with sufficient effectiveness regulate these matters. You may do it perhaps to some extent but you cannot do it at all completely; and in particular you cannot do it in regard to the matter with which my new clause is mainly concerned, that is, interior painting. I think that must be perfectly obvious, because it is well known that in the painting of looms, halls, and so forth in private dwellings one man works or men work two, three, or four together—they do not work in large masses—and you cannot have inspectors going about supervising an odd man or a couple of men who are working in a private house. It cannot be done at all effectively.

Then the noble Lord said, just as has been said elsewhere, that the position has changed since 1921, because since that year there has been introduced a system of wet-rubbing. The evil which is caused by this lead paint arises largely through the rubbing down of the old paint in order to prepare the surface for the new paint, and the dry dust which is scattered about in the process gets into the body, and in certain cases causes poison. The noble Lord says that there has been introduced a waterproof sandpaper, and great things are hoped from that. But, if that is so good, how is it that this lead paint poisoning is still going on? And is it not the case—I should like the noble Lord to reply specifically to this question—that although the wet-rubbing process may stop the scattering of dust, yet it causes in the process a cream to be formed and that cream gets into the system underneath the nails of the men who are working. I am afraid there is no doubt about that. At any rate, that is my information from practical people who have to do this thing. And, if that is so, then this further line of defence of the Government is to a large extent untenable. These are definite points, and I think we are entitled to have some reply from the Government upon them.

The fact is that the Government themselves are not at all confident about this Bill. It is only necessary to read the speeches made by Ministers in another place and by the noble Lord here to see that they are themselves doubtful whether the Regulations which they propose will be sufficient for the purpose. They say that if this Bill is not enough they will in due course bring in a Bill which would do exactly what the new clause which I have placed on the Paper would effect. If that is so, and if they are prepared to do that. I think that is a further proof, if any were needed, of how hollow their contention is that they cannot pass a larger Bill. If they could pass it then, they could pass it now. It is, at any rate, doubtful—it will not be disputed by the noble Lord, I am sure—whether this Bill will be enough.

And have we any right in a matter like this to speculate, so to speak? Even supposing, for the sake of argument, that the Regulations are partially effective, that they succeeded to the extent of 50 per cent., what would that mean? All it would mean is that, instead of perhaps 400 or 500 cases a year, you would have 200 or 250; instead of forty deaths a year you would have twenty deaths. That is a very unsatisfactory state of things. I submit that we ought not to "experiment," to use the word used by the Home Secretary in this connection, in a matter like this, more particularly as doing so involves us, I hold, in a breach of faith with what we agreed to in Geneva in 1921. Looking at the matter all round, I suggest that there is the strongest case for confirming what was done then. That can be effected by this new clause, and I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Clause 1, page 1, line 6, at the beginning insert the said new clause.—(Lord Arnold.)


I hope very much that the Government will see their way to accept this Amendment. I cannot speak from any intimate technical knowledge of the subject, but I have always taken a great interest in it since, many years ago, I had to visit two cases of men who were dying of this lead poisoning, and I have had many opportunities of discussing the matter in the past, both with painters and with master painters. As the result of these discussions I came quite definitely to the conclusion that the only way of dealing with this problem is by prohibiting altogether the use of lead paint. Of course, Regulations may be able to do something, and I should prefer to have this measure rather than no measure at all. But I cannot see how these Regulations can really be carried into effect. It is not as if you were dealing with large numbers of men, collected together in a factory. It is not as if you were dealing with large bodies of men under one employer. You are dealing with tiny groups of men working sometimes in this street, sometimes in another street; and it seems to me to be quite impossible to secure that these Regulations will be effectively obeyed and effectively carried out.

You are, moreover, face to face with the fact that lead poisoning has been steadily increasing during the last few years. I cannot help asking the question, Why is this prosposal objected to by the Government? Why have not the Government brought in a clause forbidding the use of this paint in interiors? Not only is this proposal supported by the Geneva Convention, but it has received a very large amount of support, both from the master painters and the painters themselves. In a resolution which was passed by the Joint Industrial Council of the trade they declare that The Painters and Decorators Joint Industrial Council of Great Britain has examined the text of the Lead Paint (Protection against Poisoning) Bill"— this was last year, not this year— and regrets to observe that it does not adopt the principles laid down in the Geneva Convention. This Council reiterates its resolution of January 23, 1925, that it cannot support any Bill which gives a less degree of protection to the persons employed in painting than the Convention provides. You have the master painters, you have the painters, you have the Geneva Convention, you have an important Committee in 1911—all of them asking that interior painting with lead paint should be forbidden. It does, therefore, seem strange that objection should be raised to this clause. I venture to hope that the Government will accept it. It is not a matter in regard to which you can safely delay and wait and see how the Regulations act. You are dealing with human lives and human suffering, and every year you delay in dealing with this matter effectively adds to the sum total of human suffering which can be prevented.


I regret to say on behalf of the Government that they cannot possibly see their way to accept this Amendment. Notwithstanding the ease with which my noble friend opposite seems to think you can pass Bills through another place they feel that if an important Amendment of this character is introduced into this Bill there is not the slightest prospect, with the very large number of Bills which are down at the present time for consideration in another place, no less than twenty-five I think it is, of this Bill becoming law. I went into the matter somewhat at length on the Second Reading of the Bill and I do not propose to repeat what I said at that time; but I will at all events repeat this—that the Government believe that by Regulations you can achieve what is attempted in the Geneva Convention to be brought about by the more drastic method of absolute prohibition of the use of lead paint inside of buildings. The Government are in this position. They say that this can be done at once and can be tried and if you pass this Bill yon may save the lives and the health of many men. If the Regulations are proved by experience to be not enough they would then be quite prepared to bring in a prohibition Bill.

I should like to read a few sentences, if I may, from what was said by one of those who took part in the Conference that was held in Geneva. He was the Canadian Government Delegate to the Conference and was also Chairman of the Committee of experts which considered the whole position with the help of a medical sub-committee during several weeks, the essential question being how best to reconcile the protection of painters with the practical indispensability of lead paint. This is an expert who says that you cannot absolutely knock out lead paints and he goes on to say that the Committee recommended that the reasonable solution of the hygienic problem was the establishment of Regulations, which they outlined very much as in this present Bill. He states:— Having heard all the evidence I shared this view. The recommendation would, in my opinion, have been unanimous"— this is rather important in view of the point that has been made about this Convention and the recommendations of the Convention on which I hope to say something before I sit down— .… the recommendation would, in my opinion, have been unanimous— that is the recommendation for Regulations— if the majority of the workers' representatives had (as it was understood they had agreed) voted for it instead of abstaining. It was owing to the interposition of the French and Belgian representatives (upon arguments which were not strictly scientific, and possibly influenced by the fact that these countries are the chief producers of the rival pigments) that the Conference itself on the last working day, in a state of hustle, rejected the Committee's recommendation and put forward the draft Convention. That draft Convention has not been adopted by any part of the British Empire nor, I understand, has it been adopted by any country of industrial importance until recently, when it was ratified by Belgium and France, which, in their special circumstances, was to be expected. Belgium and France are not interested in lead paint. Imputations were thrown backwards and forwards in the Conference from the countries interested in the use of lead paint and those who were not, like Belgium and France. That, anyhow, is the letter which was written by Mr. Obed Smith, who seas the Canadian Delegate to the Conference and Chairman of the Committee which went into the whole matter. I think you can gather from that letter that if the Chairman of the expert Committee is in favour of trying Regulations immediately instead of the absolute prohibition of the use of lead paint, which leads to many other things, in the interior of buildings, at all events the Government are justified in trying this plan instead of proceeding with and trying to get through the House of Commons a method of total prohibition which they are not at all likely to pass. All this has been discussed at some length in another place and I think that anybody who reads the debates cannot help coming to the conclusion that if you resuscitate this dead proposition you are not at all likely to get either that or any other Bill. If this Amendment is inserted it is sure to be rejected in another place.

I do not wish to take up the time of your Lordships at any length upon this particular Amendment; but there is one thing I should like to say in answer to what my noble friend Lord Arnold has said about the Conference. I understood him to say—I do not want to misquote him—that it was a most serious thing, almost a dishonour to this country, not to carry out the agreement that had been voted for by our representative at the Conference. I want to put the matter quite clearly and it might make the matter clearer to your Lordships' House if I stated exactly how, as I understand it, this Labour Conference at Geneva stands. I think the remarks of my noble friend reveal a misconception of the character of the International Labour Conference and of the form which their proposals take; so perhaps I might say in one or two words what really happened regarding this Labour Conference.

Under the Treaty of Versailles a permanent international labour organisation was brought into existence consisting of an international Labour Conference—this is the point that we have to deal with now—the members of which are the Members of the League of Nations. There is also an International Labour Office, with which we are not at the moment concerned. I think this is rather an important point in view of what my noble friend has said: The International Labour Conference is not—and this is a point which seems to require some emphasis—a Conference of plenipotentiaries, like an ordinary Diplomatic Conference. The Labour Conference has absolutely no right to dictate to this or any other country what legislation shall be passed either with regard to labour or anything else. It is not for them to say what legislation we shall and shall not have. It is not like an ordinary Diplomatic Conference. I have had some experience of Diplomatic Conferences, and supposing we have plenipotentiaries at a Diplomatic Conference and they actually sign certain Conventions on behalf of their Governments, it does not absolutely follow from that, that Parliament is divested of all its powers and is bound to ratify those Conventions. I remember very well the controversy that took place over the Declaration of London. There were two Conferences, it will be remembered, one at The Hague and the other in London, and the Declaration was signed on behalf of the Government of this country, but it was not ratified. The Labour Conference has no power whatever of binding anybody and it does not follow that you must accept what it does.

These are the facts: The delegates, who include a representative of the employers and a representative of the workers as well as two official representatives, do not prepare and sign a Convention. What they do is to prepare a draft Convention for submission to the Governments. There is nothing signed and there is no question, therefore, of going back on a signature. No engagement whatever is entered into. If there is any doubt about this I might perhaps, with the permission of the House, quote two paragraphs from Article 403 of the Treaty. I suppose they would be accepted as final. The Treaty says:— Each of the Members undertakes that it will, within the period of one year at most from the closing of the session of the Conference, or if it is impossible owing to exceptional circumstances to do so within the period of one year, then at the earliest practicable moment and in no case later than eighteen months from the closing of the session of the Conference, bring the recommendation or draft Convention before the authority or authorities within whose competence the matter lies for the enactment of legislation or other action. There is no going back upon anything. The only undertaking that is made is this: that this agreement or recommendation shall be brought before the proper authorities.

What happens if nothing is done is, I think, made fairly clear:— If on a recommendation no legislative or other action is taken to make a recommendation effective, or if the draft Convention fails to obtain the consent of the authority or authorities within whose competence the matter lies, no further obligations shall rest upon the Member. That seems to me perfectly clear and is down in black and white. These paragraphs show quite clearly that the only obligation that rests upon the British Government in respect of a draft Convention adopted by the Conference is to bring the draft Convention before the competent authority. The draft Conventtion relating to white lead, which is now under discussion was brought before the House of Commons in May, 1923. This Bill represents the steps which the Government feel they are justified in taking with regard to it. There can be no question, therefore, that the Government have not throughout acted strictly in accordance with the terms of the Treaty. I think that is an explanation.

There is another point. It is not a very important one, but I think I ought to correct an error into which my noble friend has fallen. He laid great stress, not only to-night but on the Second Reading, on the fact that the draft Convention adopted at Geneva was voted for by the official British Delegate. That does not in the least, as I have tried to explain, alter the position so far as the Govern- ment are concerned; though of course the Government would naturally consider the proposals submitted to them very carefully before taking a decision in a contrary sense. But one ought to take into co aside ration the circumstances which have been alluded to in the letter from Mr. Obed Smith, a passage from which I have quoted. In that letter there will be found support for what I am now going to say. The circumstances in which the vote were given were peculiar and I should like quite briefly to recapitulate them. At the last minute of the eleventh hour, just before the Conference was breaking up, a compromise was reached between those who advocated the total prohibition of the use of white lead in painting and those who were in favour of dealing with the problem by regulation. By that time many of the delegates to the Conference had left and there was doubt whether the two-thirds majority necessary for the adoption of the Convention could be obtained if the British Delegate abstained from voting or voted against the Convention.

Sir Montague Barlow's position as the British Government Delegate was, as I understand it, this. If he did not vote, the Convention, which possibly held the solution of the problem, might be lost. On the other hand, the compromise had been so hurriedly arrived at that all its possible ramifications and repercussions could not possibly have been explored in time and he might, by voting for the draft Convention, be according his support to what was no solution at all. This is the important point. I rather gather from my noble friend that his complaint is that the Delegate made his explanation after the vote occurred. I read the speech of the noble Lord very carefully and I gathered that was his complaint. As a matter of fact, the British Delegate made his stipulation before he voted, and therefore there is no complaint against him on that score. He said that he only voted on the understanding that the compromise would prove a satisfactory one and acceptable to all.

Your Lordships know perfectly well now it is not acceptable to all. Canada is against it, Australia, which has had many Labour Governments, is against it, South Africa is against it, and I have read passages from Mr. Obed Smith stating that even the Scientific Com- mittee, of which he was Chairman, really in their own minds preferred a system of regulation to the total prohibition of lead paint for inside work. The Government agree with the line which would have been taken, if it had been possible, by the Scientific Committee. I have said a good deal as to the reasons why the Government prefer to proceed by regulation. The Regulations cover outside painting as well as inside and the Government are persuaded that these Regulations, in view of the great progress which has been made in the prevention of dust in scraping and rubbing down paint, will be satisfactory. If not, they have engaged themselves to bring in a Bill, but that could not happen this Session. There is no question about that. Therefore, I venture to hope, after the discussions which have taken place in the House of Commons and in view of what I have said, that your Lordships will not accept this: Amendment.


I must confess it was with the very deepest regret that I heard the arguments which the noble Lord who has just sat down addressed to your Lordships' House in the first part of his remarks. It appears from what he then said that it is no use for your Lordships to make any Amendment to any Bill which may come to this House before the Christmas adjournment, that there is no chance that it will be adopted in another place, that time is short and that whatever your Lordships' opinions may be, even on a matter which is not perhaps of first importance, those opinions will be finally disregarded. It seems to me to be very unfortunate that arguments of that kind should be addressed to your Lordships' House. It makes us wonder, indeed, whether we are not wasting a great deal of time in attending here, trying to put our views before your Lordships' House and whether, taking outside opinions on the one side or the other, it is really any use proceeding with our discussions.

For my part I confess that I am not so much moved by what took place at the Labour Convention. I am convinced by the arguments which were addressed to your Lordships' House by the right rev. Prelate opposite. I do venture to say to your Lordships that it is our business, surely, to vote according to our convictions upon the arguments which are put before us in this House, and, if we think fit, to make such Amendments as we consider right. If they are rejected in another place and this Bill then comes back to us, it is open to your Lordships to insist or not to insist upon the Amendments which we make. In the meantime it does seem to me that it is our bounden duty to act as we think right upon the arguments which are brought before us. In view of that I confess that, even if I were convinced by the arguments addressed to your Lordships by the representative of the Government, I should certainly vote for the Amendment if it were pressed to a Division. In conclusion, may I say that I hope we shall not hear many times between now and the end of the present Session that we are not to pass Amendments in this House because they will not be accepted and because there is no time to hope they will be passed?


Before the new clause goes to a Division there are two or three words that I should like to say. Like the noble Earl who has just spoken, I found the reply of the noble Lord who spoke for the Government very disappointing on all grounds. Let me deal first with the question of the Convention. I will not read passages from the Report; I read one or two on the Second Reading. I am perfectly aware that, in the vote given in 1921, Sir Montague Barlow made the qualification he did before voting. I am also aware, indeed I read it to your Lordships on Second Reading, that prior to that he had used words which were extremely enthusiastic about the agreement which had been come to; and I would put it again to the noble Lord that the position is this. A Convention like this held at Geneva under the auspices of international labour brings together a great consensus of information on labour opinion all over the world. I am aware that it is not absolutely binding, just as a Treaty is not absolutely binding until it is ratified by all the countries which are parties to it. My point is this. You ought not to go back on what is, in effect, a provisional undertaking of that kind without good reason, and there has not been in my view, sufficient reason advanced for what we are doing.

The noble Lord suggested that hardly any other industrial countries have ratified what was done at Geneva. That is not correct, according to my information. I will not read all the countries, because it may be said that some of thorn are not industrial, but according to my information the following countries have ratified the Convention: Austria, CzechoSlovakia (that is a very important industrial country), Poland, Spain and Sweden. I also understand that the following countries have recommended ratification: Bulgaria, Chili, Denmark, France (the noble Lord named France), Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Rumania. Therefore it seems to me that it is this country, of the important countries, which has taken this backward step—


You omitted Belgium. I was quoting from a letter.


I had not definite information about Belgium, but that only supports my view and reinforces what I have said. I am obliged to the noble Lord. My point is this: that we stand convicted, in my view, of going back and taking a reactionary step after the consensus of opinion which was gathered together at Geneva had registered a certain provisional decree—I will not put it higher than that. I again say that this has been done, I think, without sufficient reason. The noble Lord, if I may say so, gave a great deal of interesting information, but did not deal very much with the specific points raised. He did not deal with one of the most important points, that you cannot by Regulations supervise those painters who work in twos or threes scattered in houses in different streets. Even in the pottery industry, where a lot of people work together, lead poisoning still occurs. Then, again, he did not say a single word on the point I raised about the efficiency of the wet sandpaper process. He said that if the Bill is not sufficient the Government will, in due course, and if still in office, bring in a larger measure, but it is that interval I am concerned with, because it is certain that in that interval hundreds of persons will suffer from this terrible disease—for it is a terrible disease—and some scores will die. Therefore, I contend that the decision of the Government is not at all satisfactory We will have a Division, and our protest will be on record and in future years we shall see who is right.


I am sorry I did not deal with the two points mentioned by the noble Lord. In regard to the difficulty of supervision, I think the answer is that the painters have a good union to look after their interests, and if these Regulations are not carried out there is no doubt the Home Office will very soon hear about it through the union. There is also another point, that these Regulations cannot be worked without employers and employed being willing to give them the very best possible trial. As regards employers, they know that the much more drastic alternative is hanging over their heads, and I think

Resolved in the negative and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Clause 1:

Regulations us to use of lead paint.

1.—(1) The Secretary of State may make regulations for preventing danger from lead paint to persons employed in or in connection with the painting of buildings, and in particular— (a) for prohibiting the use of any lead compound except in the form of paste or of paint ready for use;

that alone will make them very careful in carrying out the Regulations. The Home Secretary will make these Regulations, and I think there is no doubt that with the agreement of both masters and men, which has already been obtained in many cases, the Regulations will be sufficient. As to wet-rubbing, that is a process in regard to which, I suppose, like many other things, you hear conflicting evidence from the two sides. The evidence I gave is very much in favour of its efficacy, and I suppose the evidence which my noble friend opposite has is very much against it. I will leave it at that.

On Question, Whether the proposed new clause shall be there inserted?—

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 23; Not-Contents, 45.

Argyll, D. Southwark, L. Bp. Kilmaine, L.
Muir Mackenzie, L. [Teller.]
Beauchamp, E. Arnold, L. [Teller.] Olivier, L.
Buxton, E. Bethell, L. Parmoor, L.
Cawley, L. Sempill, L.
Bertie of Thame, V. Charnwood, L. Shandon, L.
Chaplin, V. Gainford, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Haldane, V. Gorell, L. Stanmore, L.
Hemphill, L. Thomson, L.
Cave, V. (L. Chancellor.) Cecil of Chelwood, V. Desart, L. (E. Desart.)
Churchill, V. Desborough, L.
Devonshire, D. Falmouth, V. Erskine, L.
Sutherland, D. Finlay, V. Fairfax of Cameron, L.
FitzAlan of Derwent, V. Faringdon, L.
Bath, M. Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.) Gage, L. (V. Gage.)
Lansdowne, M. Hampton, L.
Younger of Leckie, V. Hanworth, L.
Airlie, E. Hawke, L.
Birkenhead, E. Askwith, L. Howard of Glossop, L.
Clarendon, E. Atkinson, L. Hunsdon of Hunsdon, L.
Gainsborough, E. Balfour of Burleigh, L. Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)
Lucan, E. [Teller.] Banbury of Southam, L. Newton, L.
Minto, E. Biddulph, L. Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)
Plymouth, E. [Teller.] Clifford of Chudleigh, L. St. John of Bletso, L.
Selborne, E. Darling, L. Wharton, L.
Spencer, E. Dawson of Penn, L.

(b) for the prevention of danger arising from the application of lead paint in the form of spray;

(c) for prohibiting dry rubbing down and scraping;

LORD ASKWITH moved to add the words "of all painted surfaces" to paragraph (e) of subsection (1). The noble Lord said: If this Amendment is adopted the clause will read:— The Secretary of State may make regulations for preventing danger from lead paint to persons employed in or in connection with the painting of buildings, and in particular … (c) for prohibiting dry robbing down and scraping of all painted surfaces. It may be that the words as they stand at present can be argued to cover all painted surfaces. On the other hand, the clause as introduced is to enable Regulations to be made for preventing the danger from lead paint and, in practice, it might be confined to the prohibition of dry rubbing down when it is certain that lead paint was employed. It is not, however, at all possible to say as a certainty whether there is lead paint or not. Lead paint is very frequently used as an undercoat as well as an over-coat, and even when it is an over-coat it is not easy to recognise. I am informed by the master builders, the master painters and the white lead makers that no one but an expert—and, practically, by some chemical analysis—can be certain whether the top coat is of lead paint or of lead-less paint, or whether under the top coat of lead paint there are or are not coats of leadless paint. Accordingly, the danger of lead poisoning cannot be eliminated if there be in fact a coat or coats of lead paint. These bodies are very anxious that these Regulations should succeed for the obvious reason that they do not want such a very important trade and one that is so useful in all kinds of ways as the trade in lead paint, to be absolutely prohibited. With that object they desire that there should be some power of prohibition by regulation of dry rubbing down and scraping of painted surfaces.

The damp process is said to be a considerable improvement on anything that has been practised before, and it had the strong endorsement of Sir Thomas Oliver the pioneer of legislation and administration concerning lead poisoning in this country, when he said, in a letter le The Times on May 22, 1924: Under new methods of operating upon painted surfaces the possibilities of lead poisoning can in these days be almost said to disappear. The process is stated to produce a smoother surface more quickly and more cheaply than a dry process, and therefore would be likely for economic reasons to be adopted instead of a dry process. The statement that I have quoted follows the Report of the Norman Committee in 1923. An earlier Report was based upon the fact that the Committee could not find a substance that would prevent the lead being harmful. The Norman Committee stated that there was convincing evidence that the damp method could be successfully adopted and they added:— It is now generally accepted by the trade that dry rubbing down is no longer necessary. The trade are anxious that this damp process should be fully carried out and that they should not become liable through persons who are not experts simply supposing that there is no lead paint when there is in fact lead paint under the outer coating, or even as an outer coating, which cannot be readily discovered. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 16, at end insert ("of all painted surfaces").—(Lord Askwith.)


I am very sorry if I appear rather niggardly in my acceptance of these Amendments. Of the three Amendments upon the Paper I am afraid that I cannot on behalf of the Government accept a single one. My noble friend who has just sat down, and who is to some extent an authority on this subject, has proposed an Amendment which would include other paints as well as lead paint under the Regulations to be issued. I do not know whether in this House the point is covered by our Rules of Order, but surely this proposal is contrary to the title of the Bill which is: "Lead Paint (Protection against Poisoning) Bill." Ex hypothesi the substance with which my noble friend is dealing is not lead paint at all, and I do not know whether we can legislate for all other paint in a Bill which is merely a protection against poisoning from lead paint. I cannot help feeling a suspicion that users of lead paint may be possibly somewhat interested in this Amendment because it will put all paint, even leadless, in the same category as lead paint. In any case I hope that that which I am going to say in a moment will satisfy my noble friend. I do not share his apprehension that it is difficult to find out whether the sub-coating has been of lead paint or not. My information is that any contractor or employer can tell perfectly well whether the paint which he is going to rub down has a lead composition in it or not. That is my information.

This is what I hope will meet my noble friend, and I say it on behalf of the Hume Office and the Home Secretary. They propose to meet the point by providing in the Regulations that are to be made under the Bill that every surface shall be deemed to be a surface painted with lead paint unless the employer has satisfied himself that it is not so painted in whole or in part. The onus win be on him. In our view, where lead is not used the Regulations need not apply. They are to apply to lead paint only. To apply these Regulations to surfaces which are known to contain no lead seems to be going outside the scope of the Bill, which deals with lead paint. I am sorry that I cannot accept my noble friend's Amendment, but at the same time I hope that he may be satisfied with the statement that I have just made on behalf of the Home Office.


Would the noble Lord consider whether, instead of the words "has satisfied himself"—and it would be very easy for a person to get out of that, supposing he were taken to task in a lead paint case—the Regulation might contain the words "has ascertained that it is not so painted"?


That is a suggestion which I shall be very pleased to consider between now and the Report stage.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2:

Prohibition of employment of women and young persons in painting buildings with lead paint.

2. On and after the nineteenth day of November, nineteen hundred and twenty-seven, it shall not be lawful to employ any woman or young person in painting any part of a building with lead paint:

Provided that this section shall not apply to the employment of

  1. (a) persons employed as apprentices in the painting trade under arrangements approved by an Order of the Secretary of State made after consultation with the organisations, if any, representative of the employers and workers in the trade; or
  2. 706
  3. (b) women or young persons in such special decorative or other work (not being work of an industrial character) as may be excluded from the provisions of this section by an Order of the Secretary of State.

LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH moved, in that part of the clause which precedes the proviso, to leave out the words "woman or." The noble Lord said: Arising out of the Amendment upon which the House divided a moment or two ago we had a very interesting discussion as to the respective merits of regulation and prohibition to deal with the admitted evil of lead poisoning in the painting trade. I listened with great interest to the convincing arguments given by the noble Lord in charge of the Bill, and all I want him to do is to apply the principles, which he enunciated with great eloquence, to Clause 2, because, strangely enough, having advocated regulation under Clause 1, he will, I suppose, in reply to my Amendment, unless he accepts it, make an equally eloquent speech in favour of prohibition. If I may do so I will put it in this way: What is sauce for the gander is also sauce for the goose. I put down my Amendment because I think the exclusion of women is unfair to them. I think that adult women engaged in the painting trade ought to be allowed to choose for themselves. I do not deny that the number of women affected by this clause, if it remains, is small. I dare say that there are only some hundreds who will be affected, but even if that be so the hardship inflicted upon those women concerned will be a very great one, and I do not think that the fact that their numbers are few will commend itself to your Lordships as a reason for depriving these women of their livelihood.

There are various reasons which I can quote to prove that this work, particularly of interior painting, is work that is specially suitable for women. Certain artistic qualities are required in the work, and apart from that in this matter of lead poisoning questions of personal cleanliness and the care of the hands and nails enter very largely, and I think that women are probably better capable of looking after themselves in those matters than are men. I have no doubt that this prohibition is put in with a good intention, but I do not think your Lordships much care for prohibition, whether in regard to lead painting or any other matter, and I think that if this prohibition is allowed to stand it is one which might do more harm than good.

With a little intelligent anticipation, I suppose that the Government will rest their case for prohibition on medical grounds, and while it is dangerous for a layman to trench upon medical grounds there are one or two aspects of the medical case which are matters of common sense. The medical case for this prohibition, I believe, rests partly upon theory and partly upon fact. The theory is that women, as women, are more susceptible to lead poisoning than men. I believe that that theory dates from the day when women were engaged, particularly in the potteries, in very dangerous processes in connection with lead, and there is no doubt whatever that a very large proportion of the lead poisoning cases occurred among women. But what was overlooked, I believe, was the fact that the women engaged in that work were, as a whole, very poorly paid and therefore there were predisposing causes to lead to lead poisoning—I believe, from a medical point of view, that malnutrition and anœmia are predisposing causes—but that theory has become fossilised and crystallised in all the subsequent legislation on the point. I do not believe any special inquiry has taken place since women were excluded by regulation in the case of the Potteries.

The second point with regard to women is the undoubted fact that in their case lead poisoning leads to great racial misfortune as far as the family is concerned. They are very much more apt to have miscarriages and still-births than healthy women, and this fact, standing by itself, is a good reason for exclusion, but it does not take any cognisance of the other fact that the suffering of the father from lead poisoning produces precisely the same effect. It would be very interesting to know from the noble Lord if any definite inquiry has taken place in this country with regard to that matter because a good many foreign investigators who have conducted investigation into that point have come to the conclusion that paternal lead poisoning is just as serious from the racial point of view as maternal lead poisoning. So much for the medical grounds.

The other ground on which I would ask the noble Lord if he could not accept my Amendment is that in leaving this prohibition in the Bill he is playing straight into the hands of one of the most powerful vested interests which exist; I mean the trade unions. These protective Regulations are always put forward by trade unions on humanitarian grounds, but while no doubt many people in trade unions honestly want them on that account, I am bound to say that there is another motive at work, and that is that they want to keep women out of the job. So long ago as 1875 my father was a member of a Royal Commission to look into the Factory Laws, and speaking in this House in 1878 he told your Lordships that the evidence taken in the Black Country—it was not lead but one of the trades carried on in the Black Country—asking for the exclusion of women, came from men who admitted that it was a wages question, and that they wanted to do away with the competition of women. That spirit remains to-day, and if you want proof of it you have only to look at the Bill which the Labour Party introduced in 1924. They proposed the prohibition of the use of lead paint both by men and women on the interior of buildings and, having done that, still excluded women from the trade. Therefore, if my medical case does not appeal to the noble Lord, I hope that the case which I have made on the other ground may appeal to him. On the Second Reading he foreshadowed another Bill, and the noble and learned Viscount opposite suggested sending this question to the Civil Research Committee. I think that is a very admirable suggestion and I hope that the noble Lord will consider very carefully whether he cannot accept this Amendment and send the whole matter to that Committee and then, when he brings in the other Bill, give us chapter and verse for some of the things which he is going to tell us now.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 14, leave out ("woman or").—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)


If I may say so I think I agree with the noble Lord that there is prima facie objection to differentiation between the sexes, and the onus of proof lies upon those who seek to impose differentiation. I doubt if that case exists, or at any rate if it exists sufficiently proved to justify prohibition. There is this further reason, and that is that it is a serious matter in any way to hinder women in seeking employment where they are able to engage in it. One of the most striking features of the last fifty years, I take it, is the way in which woman has shown her aptitude in working out her own destiny. She has shown a sureness of touch in extending her activities from one sphere to another, and has widened her outlook, I think we may say, in the main with striking success. I would place far more reliance upon the women themselves in deciding whether they should undertake the painting industry or not than on any Regulations.

Then, again, there are a great many occupations which women are precluded from undertaking on account of the fact that they are physically weaker than men. It is, therefore, the more important to give them every opportunity of entering skilled trades for which they are physically suitable; and the painting industry is one of these. They are strong enough to undertake it, the conditions are suitable, unless it can be proved that they are specially prone to the poison of lead. The question, therefore, is: Is the case proved that the proclivity of women is so marked, as compared with men, that it is necessary to prohibit them from taking part in this industry?

I will freely admit that if you take the figures at present available there is very striking evidence that lead attacks women, especially young women, more often and with greater severity than men. But those figures are mainly taken from the old days in the Potteries, days which in a great measure are past. In those days the women to a large extent undertook the less skilled, the more dangerous forms of work. They were economically in a less fortunate position, and they were less protected; and there is certainly ground for the view that a large part of that proclivity of women was the result of their economic position rather than of their sex characteristics. At any rate, I would put it as high as this that unless a further inquiry is undertaken in the light of modern knowledge I should doubt very much whether there is a case for excluding women from the painting trade.

The next point I would bring forward is this, that it has now been established that far and away the most important route for the lead poison to enter the system is by the respiratory tract. The effects of dirty fingers and unclean mouths are indirect: they lower nutrition, they make the people unhealthy, they lower their resisting power. But, compared with the respiratory tract, these are relatively unimportant routes for the entry of the lead. Now, if Clause 1 of this Bill, as proposed by the Government, is efficient in its working, if it is true that by these Regulations, by substituting, that is, wet methods for dry methods, you can eliminate the dust, I think it is quite likely that the greater proclivity of women will fall very nearly to zero. At any rate, I do not think it is safe to use figures and statistics from the days when the lead industry was not properly regulated.

I now come to the very important question of pregnancy. It is quite true that lead is a dangerous poison, in that it produces abortion and miscarriages. But, here again, I venture to think that the women are quite capable of protecting themselves. If the Regulations under Clause 1 are adequate, if, in other words, dust is prevented—and it is dust that matters and dust only: that is hardly too strong a statement—if the dust is prevented from entering the respiratory tract of these women they will not abort; and therefore if the measures are efficient the miscarriages will not take place. There is the further point referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, that the lead poisoning, in bringing about miscarriages, very often goes through the male as well as the female. The figures are most interesting as well as tragic. For example, there is one set of figures affecting workers in lead mines, where the wives have never worked in the lead mines and the men do work in the lead mines, and forty per cent. of a given block of pregnancies miscarried. There you have the poison carried by means of the man. And there are other figures bearing that out. Therefore, if you exclude the women and leave the men, and your Regulations are bad, you will still have your miscarriages. If the Regulations are good—and I believe they are good—I think you will find that women and men will be protected alike. And the women's trade unions will see to it that the women are protected just as the men's trade unions will see to it that the men are protected.

I will call your Lordships' attention to Clause 1, where the Secretary of State is able to order a medical examination. That gets over many of the difficulties, because a medical examination will often discover the early stages of lead poisoning before the sufferer has any symptoms at all. And if in the future, as I hope, through the activities of the Industrial Research Council a means is found whereby, by some bio-chemical test, you can say who is prone to lead poisoning and who is not, that will, in the future, probably be a solution of this problem. The point must be borne in mind that there are a large number of people who can breathe lead with apparent impunity, just as there are large numbers of people who can drink alcohol with comparative impunity; and there are others who after a fortnight's work in lead are apt to get poisoned.

Therefore, to summarise, my suggestion is that the prohibition of women should be withdrawn from the Bill, that it should be left to the option of the Secretary of State to regulate whether they should take part in the industry or not, and I think the suggestion is a good one that the whole question should go to the Industrial Research Council in the hope of finding a bio-chemical test whereby we may know whether people are prone or not. If these measures were carried out I think it would meet all the conditions of the case, and it would meet what to my mind is a grave drawback, and that is differential legislation as between men and women.


I hope the Government will accept the Amendment. I think it is the first time I have ever spoken in this House or in the other House in favour of women, but, being an individualist, and the Government having approved of giving the vote to women, I venture to say that if a woman is fit to vote for a Member of Parliament she is also fit to decide whether or not she should paint a house.


Or take poison?


Yes, or take poison. I do not believe in all these paternal Regulations, and I cannot conceive how any one can contend that a woman who is twenty-one years of age, and is capable of voting in municipal and Parliamentary elections, is not capable of deciding whether or not she should occupy herself in painting.


I do not rise to repeat what I said on the Second Reading, but the importance of the speech that has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Dawson of Penn, brings up again the point on which I addressed a question to the noble Lord opposite. Lord Dawson of Penn has pointed out the very unsatisfactory character of the ex cathedra replies that are given off-hand by medical authorities on a question like this. The question of the effect of plumbism, lead poisoning, can only be ascertained by careful observation in hospitals and by other means, and by careful observation by qualified observers. It is of no use to tell us that a medical inspector has reported that there is a great deal of it and that somebody else has said he is convinced that there is lead poisoning. What we want to know is, what amount of inquiry did they direct to the point and in what circumstances did they direct it. Of that we cannot judge.

I feel myself quite incapable of forming an opinion on the question whether women are in greater danger of lead poisoning than men, and I feel myself quite incapable also of attaching any importance to authorities quoted here by noble Lords opposite as well as in the other House. It is a question that needs careful inquiry and the Government have two bodies which they can ask to inquire. There is the Medical Research Committee of the Privy Council, and there is also, and I think this is more germane to their functions, the Committee on Civil Research. If the noble Lord opposite, who has had the opportunity of asking about this since our last discussion, will say that the Government have decided to have inquiries made by one of these bodies, preferably I think the Committee on Civil Research, for one will feel much easier than I do at present. If not. I hope the noble Lord will tell us that he has looked into this and will say what the reasons are if the Government state that they cannot undertake this inquiry


I have been invited by my noble friend opposite to enter into a medical discussion and satisfy him on various points; so if I make certain quotations in the course of my remarks I hope I shall be forgiven for exposing the House to a certain amount of tedium. With regard to what was said by my noble friends Lord Balfour of Burleigh and Lord Dawson of Penn regarding the setting up of the Committee, I am afraid that exposes us still more to the fear of losing the Bill than the putting of an Amendment into a Bill to be sent down to another place would do, because the Committee would obviously take some time to report.


I understand that you have another Bill coming, and then we should have the satisfaction of knowing that you were looking into the thing.


The other Bill may be coming. If the Regulations do not succeed the Home Office are undertaking to bring in another Bill. But if this Bill is shelved on the understanding or in the conviction—perhaps that is the better word—that more information is required as to the effect of lead poisoning on men as compared with women, it is obvious that this Bill will be dead.


But you would have the public with you.


But it is obvious that the Bill cannot pass in this Session of Parliament, and that is my point. Each of the three noble Lords who have spoken seemed to be unaware that for the last thirty-five years the employment of women and children has been prohibited in those industries in which lead poisoning is a serious risk. Yon are proposing something quite new. I, on the other hand, am following the precedent of thirty-five years and the results of a great many inquiries and of experience of the use which Regulations have been in preserving the lives of women from lead poisoning.

I am afraid I shall have to make a few quotations later on, but. I should like to observe that my two noble friends opposite who are sitting near one another seem to me to take diametrically opposite views. The noble Lord to my right seems to consider that the words of a Convention or agreement or recommendation at Geneva are, or ought to be, sacrosanct. The very Convention at Geneva, the one we are discussing now, provides for the exclusion of women and children. I do not know how my noble friend who sits exactly opposite me and seems to be in favour of that will vote or into which Lobby he will go—the Lobby to support the Convention, or that to expose women and children to lead poisoning. I suppose before the time comes they will make up their minds which way they are going to vote.

This matter has been inquired into over and over again during the last forty years. I am quite willing to admit that doctors are not quite agreed about it. I have known very few cases in which doctors were absolutely agreed, but a great many inquiries have been made both here and elsewhere into the matter. I would like to draw the attention of the House to the Women and Young Persons (Employment in Lead Processes) Act, 1920. That Bill was debated in this House and embodied a Convention adopted by the International Labour Conference, which of course was fully debated here. Under the provisions of that Act women are not allowed to be employed in a whole number of specified operations which cover a great many processes involving the use of lead. Then why suddenly make an exception? As I have said, the prohibition of women taking part in processes which expose them to lead poisoning has gone on for the last thirty-five years, and then suddenly, for the first time on this particular Bill that we are anxious to pass into law so as to bring the Regulations into operation, an Amendment is introduced which certainly would delay the Bill for some very considerable time and at all events lose it for the present.

I have been asked to produce some evidence to prove that women are more susceptible than men to lead poisoning. I cannot go into any great detail, but as regards the medical profession, I think I may say that the balance of medical opinion is overwhelmingly on the side of the views which are the basis of the policy adopted by successive Governments for the last thirty-five years. As a layman, I cannot give an opinion, but I am sure my noble friend Lord Dawson of Penn, from his knowledge, will agree that there are authorities in this particular matter second to none in this or in any other country. They have devoted their lives to this matter. Lead poison- ing, as I understand it, is a thing that is rather outside the purview of the ordinary practitioner and ought to be relegated—


To research.


—to those who make an absolute speciality professionally of the question. The authorities are Sir Thomas Oliver and Sir Thomas Legge, the Senior Medical Inspector of Factories. There have been books published on the subject, as my noble friend knows better than I do. This is the opinion of Sir Thomas Oliver, who has studied the question:— On the whole females, particularly young females, suffer more severely from plumbism than males. Then follow some medical details which I will not give, and he goes on to say— My contention is that it is largely owing to the power of lead to inflict harm upon the reproductive organs of women that the female sex is so liable to be adversely influenced by the metal. That contention is at the bottom of the Regulations which have been adopted by your Lordships' House and by the other House of Parliament. Later on he says— An interesting point in regard to maternity and plumbism is that, while the expectant mother does not show any sign of plumbism and is apparently not suffering from lead poisoning, she transmits to her babe such a legacy of lead that the infant is born dead or dies shortly after birth. In his book on lead poisoning and lead absorption, which was written in conjunction with Sir Kenneth Goadby—also, I believe, an admitted authority—another well-known expert, Sir Thomas Legge, states unequivocally that women are more susceptible to poisoning by lead than men.

There are two other opinions which I should like to bring to the notice of the House. The question of lead poisoning was reviewed by a Special Commission on unhealthy processes appointed by the First International Labour Conference—this will interest the noble Lord opposite—which met under the Treaty of Peace at Washington in 1919. There was then a very great gathering of experts and those experts included a number from the chief industrial countries of Europe. In their Report they stated: What is then the general principle which should be applied in the case of women? That arrived at is one which will probably commend itself to all, namely, only when interference with the function of maternity can be shown to exist, should women's employment be made a bar and lead has been proved medically to be the chief, if not the only, intoxicant, in which this danger is present. The Commission then passed unanimously a resolution that I need not read. It stated that, although absolute proof is lacking that women are considerably more susceptible than men, their rôle as mother makes it necessary to consider special precautions.

The Commission proceeded to recommend the prohibition of the employment of women in a number of lead processes and one of the results of the work of this Commission was the Employment in Lead Processes Act to which I have already referred. Women in painting was a subject not specially considered by this Commission, but it recommended that the subject should be referred to a later Conference. This was done and the painting industry was considered by a Conference in 1921. This is the Conference that has already been referred to on both sides of the House this evening. It also had the advice of distinguished medical experts, and the draft Convention, to which reference was made on the Second Reading, was adopted by it. That Convention contains the provision for the exclusion of women which has been included in the Government's Bill. We are, therefore, not only following the precedent of thirty-five years, but we are carrying out one of the main provisions adopted at this Conference.

The last extract I shall read is from a publication issued by the International Labour Office, and is as follows:— All, however, agree that in women lead poisoning assumes a more severe form (manifesting itself in convulsions and amaurosis, etc.) than in men. … It is not necessary for the mother to be affected by lead for the children to develop symptoms of lead poisoning. The noble Lord has quoted various figures. I have had the privilege of reading a pamphlet issued by the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship which is so interested in this particular Amendment. I should like to point out that this Amendment is not put down in the interests of women painters or of trade unions or of labour generally. We have heard nothing from the trade unions as to what their views are. The Amendment is supported by a political body which is in favour of equal citizenship. I do not know that I need go into the figures given by my noble friend on my right, but as far as I could see they rather supported my contention. They practically amounted to this, that. Not-withstanding that women receive great protection in dangerous lead employment the number of women affected is still greater than the number of men.

I do not think it is necessary for me to give any further quotations. I can only say that if this matter is to be referred to a Committee of experts it will certainly be a long time before the Regulations come into force. The suggestion was made that if the Regulations are adequate women can then enter into these lead industries without danger, but if we do not pass the Regulations you cannot try them. After the Regulations have been tried, if it is found that they remove all danger of plumbism, my noble friend or someone else can then move a Bill in Parliament to remove all the precautions which have been sanctioned by Parliament to protect women from lead paint, but to do it piecemeal in a Bill, contrary to the recommendations of the Convention that is so warmly supported by my noble friend opposite, is, I venture to suggest, not the way to proceed in this matter. I have said more than once that if the Regulations prove inefficient the Government will be quite ready to bring in a Bill absolutely and totally prohibiting these things under certain restrictions. I very much regret that I cannot accept the Amendment which has been so delicately and pleasantly moved by my noble friend and I hope that some few of the arguments which I have used may have, done something to convince him in this particular instance.


I was one of those who put my name down as proposing this Amendment, and I did so after studying that very paper—which, I suppose, most of your Lordships have by now seen—sent by a number of representative women who are very well versed in these matters, and I do very much hope that your Lordships' House will not on a disputed medical question—and I think one may safely put it at that, after the very temperate and what seemed to me convincing speech of the noble Lord, Lord Dawson—pass a prohibitive piece of legislation which will at once add to the number of unemployed by throwing a certain number, possibly small, of honest women out of work.

The noble Lord who represents the Government in this matter has been speaking as if this were a new departure. In a sense that is true. The Factory Acts treated women and young children as on a level, as people incapable of protecting themselves and, therefore, needing protection from the Legislature. That is exactly what is not the case with women now. Women are resenting, and have for some years resented, their being put in that position and have said, with considerable truth, that the result is only to handicap them in their contest with men in professions or trades for which both are equally fit. I have not been able to find the reference, but I think John Stuart Mill—who, of course, was the first great advocate of the improvement of the position of women—took long ago an objection to the Factory Acts because they had that effect. No doubt at the time they were passed women required protection. Women require protection in England and in some other countries still in a way that men do not, but I submit to your Lordships' House that women in this country, who form themselves into trade unions, who understand association, are quite capable of protecting themselves and that it is in haste that you are going to penalise a certain number of women.

With regard to the argument about delay and going to the Committee of Scientific Research I cannot think the noble Lord who represents the Government understood the way which at any rate I should put this matter. Leave out women for the moment. If you put them in, at any rate you will have destroyed the livelihood of a great number of people. Leave out women for the moment. If your Committee of Scientific Research say, "Put women in a Bill," then three lines will put them in the very next year. What we ask for is that you should not legislate in a hurry against women.

I am glad to think I did not hear the noble Lord who represents the Government repeat that threat which he did make on the previous occasion. On the last Division I walked out; I could not support Lord Arnold; on the other hand, I could not possibly vote for the Government on such arguments as were used by the noble Lord. It seemed to me to be entirely derogatory to your Lordships' House that a Conservative Government, which is supposed to maintain the authority of this House, should tell this House that it should accept this Bill as it stands and that it cannot touch one syllable of it. That seems to me a turning round of the whole Conservative Party such as it is almost impossible to understand. I can quite understand their saying that they could not get through the House of Commons a complicated Amendment with new provisions such as was proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Arnold, but to say that they cannot get through the House of Commons—after eleven o'clock at night, if necessary—a Resolution agreeing with the Lords Amendment to omit two words, that, I venture to say, is to ask this House to accept that which there is no reason for its accepting at all. I trust your Lordships will see that there is very good reason for this very simple Amendment, which I am quite certain would not endanger the passage of the Bill through the other House.


I only wish to say one or two words in reply to the noble Lord. I am not going to quote other medical authorities, but I think as he has quoted Sir Thomas

Resolved in the affirmative and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Oliver I must quote from a book by Sir Thomas Oliver dated 1925. On page 193 of that book he wrote that it appeared to him that women were "probably more susceptible" to this disease than men. That is not a very strong statement from the authority relied on by the noble Lord. Again, on page 198, he says that "there is a great want of accurate information in regard to lead poisoning in house painters." That is the noble Lord's own authority. I also hold in my hand a letter on parental lead poisoning, dated November 16, 1926. The letter is not addressed to me, but it is a letter from Sir Thomas Oliver, and in it he says: There has not been so far as I know in this country any really scientific investigation as to the results on offspring of parental lead poisoning. That is my case. I want this matter investigated. It is merely a bogey to say that this Amendment will destroy the Bill. If this Amendment is accepted it will not be final, and when the Government bring in a new Bill if the case is substantiated the matter would not be prejudiced. Finally, if Clause 1 is effective Clause 2 is unnecessary, and therefore I feel bound to press the Amendment to a Division.

On Question, Whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the clause?—

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 35; Not-Contents, 17.

Sutherland, D. Finlay, V. Gage, L. (V. Gage).
FitzAlan of Derwent, V. Hanworth, L.
Airlie, E. Hawke, L.
Beauchamp, E. Hereford, L. Bp. Howard of Glossop, L.
Birkenhead, E. Southwark, L. Bp. Kilmaine, L.
Buxton, E. Kylsant, L.
Gainsborough, E. Arnold, L. Lamington, L.
Lucan, E. [Teller.] Biddulph, L. Newton, L.
Minto, E. Cawley, L. Olivier, L.
Plymouth, E. [Teller.] Charnwood, L. Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)
Spencer, E. Desborough, L. Parmoor, L.
Stanhope, E. Fairfax of Cameron, L. Stanmore, L.
Faringdon, L. Wharton, L.
Bath, M. Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.) Dawson of Penn, L.
Gainford, L.
Selborne, E. Jessel, L.
Askwith, L. Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)
Bertie of Thame, V. Avebury, L. Muir Mackenzie, L.
Churchill, V. Balfour of Burleigh, L. Phillimore, L. [Teller.]
Falmouth, V. Sempill, L.
Stanley of Alderley, L.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment.